Here's to a positive Christmas

Published 22/12/2015 | 00:00

My name is Maurene Howell. Proud to be a Wexford native, I am both a mother and grandmother. Through work, training and life experience, I am committed to both educational and practical aspects of mental health - which is part of our overall wellbeing and not something separate from it. I have given many workshops and talks on the subject of 'Positive Mind Change' both across Co Wexford and further afield. For further information, I can be contacted on 087 7145658 or through www.positivemindchange.ie

Planning Christmas 2015:

How much 'planning' is necessary and how much is stressful and unnecessary? Each year we get carried along on the tide that is the Christmas rush…..buying presents, sending letters to Santa and then hoping Santa can deliver, food, parties…..and so it goes.

Personally, I love the week prior to Christmas Day. My grandchildren put up the decorations, many times, before deciding they look ok!! The joy they bring is wonderful. We can often forget the real meaning of Christmas and about people! As well as family and friends, those who are lonely, people sad at being apart from loved ones; those who are financially stressed and those who need any kind of help and support. So it's a time to mind our mental as well as our physical health…always easier said than done! I have no doubt we all 'stress' over different aspects of the holidays but I also believe if we get the basics right then the rest will make sense.

For example: Presence or presents? Food on the table or a new carpet…which is more important? Would you consider decorating the house more important than heating it? Many people get into debt in an attempt to cover all their plans and then they can't enjoy Christmas worrying how they'll pay off the debt. This scenario does not create positive mental health but instead, compromises it….especially if you're already battling other issues. For each of us, it's always important to be or do the best we can and to be happy with that. How can we achieve this at Christmas? Well, perhaps making a plan of a different kind.

1. Be responsible - we all like little extras but keep them in moderation so you can still afford to pay the bills

2. Be prepared - to go without the new curtains or the new watch. They're not a necessity

3. Be glad - that you're mature enough to make these decisions instead of worrying what others think or say about you.

We all know that old saying 'he who pays the piper calls the tune'. Well, we can relate that to Christmas too!

If you would like to read more, please visit my website positivemindchange.ie

For many of us, Christmas Day is the longest and loneliest of the year but it is just ONE day so try to be relaxed and appreciate it. If you've been working, busy at home and so on, treat it as a day off, as far as possible. Encourage and accept help from others with the preparation and cooking. This applies to people who are lonely, distressed or depressed too…..be open and welcoming.

It's a good idea not to let the loneliness or isolation develop in the weeks before Christmas or it just becomes more difficult to shake it off. To that end, go to carol services, panto productions, Christmas markets or arrange to meet family/friends for coffee and a chat. That helps any time of the year but is especially helpful in this festive season. It isn't about how much money you spend, nor does it have to be. Sometimes, you can get into the spirit of things just being around others…particularly children. Visit the Library and take out a couple of books for light reading. Swapping books/magazines is a great way to 'recycle', doesn't cost anything and means you have contact with at least one other person!

This kind of planning applies to those who may spend too much time in the pub or partying also. Think not only of your purse/wallet but you're health and the cost to both.

Finally, reminisce only when you're happy. Have lots of memories to share and laugh at and distance yourself from thoughts and memories that affect your mood and consequently spoil any hope of a happy time. If we can be content to do little but relax on Christmas Day and enjoy it, then we're doing ok. A few thoughts

1. If I believe I can't, then I won't. If I think I can, then I might. If I try, then I'll know

2. A closed mind cannot learn to change, therefore it cannot mature

3. If a good habit becomes boring, frustrating or dreaded, then it's no longer useful as it is

For more thoughts and readings, please visit my website positivemindchange.ie

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